At South Kawa Japanese Restaurant, sushi isn’t just a delight for the mouth; it’s a feast for the eyes. Bold colors and delicate flavors intermingle as chefs spool fresh fish and rice into more than 40 types of maki rolls, including specialties such as the American Eagle, a mélange of king crab, spicy tuna, asparagus, and two types of roe. Plates of sashimi can be made to order from more than 20 varieties of sea fare, such as yellowtail, octopus, and freshwater eel. Hot starters such as steamed seafood shumai and pan-fried chicken gyoza pair nicely with cool beverages, which diners can bring from home or squeeze from low-hanging rain clouds.
SakeZake's fusion of ancient and contemporary tastes extends from the robust menu of specialty sushi rolls to the artfully minimalist dining-room decor. Executive Chef Ahn Yung Jin's classic nigiri shares menu space with specialty rolls that combine fresh fish with eye-catching ingredients such as tempura flakes, jalapeño, and diamond chips. Mock shoji screens and lacquered red chairs give the dining room the air of a modish teahouse, while the funky hourglass lamps keep things as fresh as the sushi-bar offerings. The lounge-like atmosphere is no accident, as SakeZake is open until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday nights.
Executive chef Simon Lin beautifully blends various Asian and North American culinary traditions into an eclectic array of sophisticated dishes, enhanced with more than 50 signature sauces, spice blends, and seasonings. The lunch menu satisfies roaring noontime stomachs by offering up the best of the deep blue, including seafood pasta, in which sea scallops, prawns, and crab meat play Marco Polo with pad-thai noodles in a Thai alfredo sauce ($14.99), and a smorgasbord of sushi and sashimi favorites. Dinner dishes slather taste buds in elegant flavors, such as the peppercorn-encrusted tuna, served with wasabi garlic smashed potatoes ($27). Moisten freshly sated palates with a selection of beer, sake, and plum wine or an artistic martini.
Eight Piece is all about serving up food fresh and fast, yet each of the restaurant’s dishes remain meticulously prepared. As chefs layer fresh fish and vegetables into their signature versions of California and Philadelphia rolls, guests watch on through glass like proud parents and point out the roll they named after a grandparent. In an interactive turn, diners are encouraged to create their own sushi rolls from a menu of base rolls, creative toppings, and sauces. From those choices, chefs can add heat to a vegetarian roll with a chili oil-infused kamikaze mixt topping or cool down a chipotle roll with an individual topping of avocado and a sauce. With sushi plates in hand, diners are invited to nestle into the airy dining room where neon lime chairs and white banquettes invite conversation and leisurely dining.
Zipangu Hiro's chefs, specially trained in Japan, juggle meats and vegetables for patrons, searing it themselves or allowing guests to cook their own cuisine at one of Zipangu Hiro's five traditional yakiniku grill-top tables. The multifaceted menu contains such crowd pleasers as veggie and seafood tempura encased in crispy batter and golden-fried. Yakiniku—the Japanese tradition of cooking your own thinly sliced meats and vegetables on a smoke-free tabletop range—puts the piquant power in diners' hands with a variety of exotic edibles, including duck ($10), pork belly ($8), shiitake mushrooms ($4), and various dipping sauces. For fire-free dining, a huge list of sushi creations rolls over hunger, including such favorites as spicy tuna ($5) and california rolls ($5), and original specialties including lobster tempura ($15) and the house's special-sauce-laced Kamikaze ($11.95).
Upon a marbled wall, a Japanese triptych mural tells the story of a gargantuan fish licked by cerulean waves and a tiny boat tossed about in its wake. Even though this vibrant piece reflects a chaotic scene, the sushi bar where the owner and head chef crafts creative rolls and maki is anything but—he’s a seasoned artist with more than 15 years' experience slicing, dicing, and coiling. He carefully furls Alaskan king crab, shrimp tempura, and sweet chili sauce and creates tantalizing nigiri and sashimi with freshly carved squid and freshwater eel. Bartenders, meanwhile, pour wines and sakes to complement the chef's mouthwatering Japanese cuisine.
Sunlight pours through ground-to-ceiling windows, streaming across hardwood floors and dark wooden tables that friendly servers speckle with dishes of aromatic steak teriyaki and tempura udon soup. Diners can enjoy these exotic feasts amid the contemporary yet casual dining room’s traditional folding screens and bamboo accents or, when the extraterrestrial overlords who control the weather permit it, outside on the patio.